Local government is pursuing many initiatives requiring youth involvement but there is lack of coherence across disparate engagement efforts. This is a key message from research by the Carnegie UK Trust and published the report ‘Empowering Young People’.
Despite the work in progress, local government still faces the challenge of how to build capacity across the wider workforce to foster youth involvement. Currently the practice is to rely upon a few members of staff whose job it is to elicit young people’s views, generally youth and community workers.
In order to build capacity across the sector training needs to be improved. The quality of training suffers because, with the exception of youth and community work, there is a lack of accreditation and it is hard to know if training programmes are fit for purpose and whether they improve the quality of practice.
There is also concern about the pattern of training supply. The majority of available training for public service professionals consists of single events run usually on an ad-hoc basis. This pattern of supply is not sufficient to build the capacity of the wide range of occupations that provide services to young people and which will effectively change the culture and behaviour of an organisation.
The report highlights the scale of the labour market challenge. Large numbers of personnel working across organisations need support to embed a culture of youth participation in their practice. The report calls for flexible training to offer appropriate support. For example, some organisations may have a strong commitment to children’s rights to participate and value this activity, but struggle to engage their senior management. Therefore tailored support is needed for senior officers.
Leadership is seen as a powerful lever of change. Building participation effectively into the way the organization runs requires strong and clear-headed leadership from at least one senior official, able to win support and resources for the work, support junior staff, and ensure that it leads to changes and learning in day to day work. It is also essential for a senior level manager to act as a champion of the work and to take across-organisational approach to embedding cultural change.